Psalm 147:1 Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise him!
This whole Psalm is a celebration, not only of God but of the joy and privilege of praising Him. One reason it feels so good to praise God is that we were created for that purpose. (Isaiah 43:21) Praising God is a glorious privilege, and we lose so much when we fail to do it. A major element of the Charismatic Renewal was rediscovering jubilant praise. It was never completely lost, but in many churches up to that point you had to search for it to find it. There are many magnificent hymns that uplift and bless, but many churches had lost the focus of singing to God. Lots of church music is believers encouraging each other. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that should not be our major focus. For the past 50 years “Charismatic” style singing has spread to a majority of congregations, in my observation, but many still don’t really have their focus clear. Self-centered “worship” isn’t really worship at all. It is only when we shift our focus off of ourselves and put it firmly on our risen Lord that we receive the faith, and everything else we need, to be effective children of God. To me, You are My All in All, by Dennis Jernigan, is a beautiful example of the attitude called for. It is perhaps more worship than praise, but it puts the focus squarely where it belongs. Writing that, I realize that I’m tripping over that distinction. To me, praise is more, “God is magnificent,” and worship is more “You are my God.” Both are essential, and music is a marvelous tool in expressing both.
I grew up in a very musical family, and have many happy memories of being gathered around the piano “singing through the hymn book.” Even so, it wasn’t until I became involved in the Charismatic movement that I discovered the sheer joy of praising and worshiping God through music. I remember as a young teenager sitting on my bed in my room, singing Just As I Am with tears running down my face. That was indeed worship, but it wasn’t praise. It is necessary commitment, but it is centered on the one singing rather than God, even though it is addressed to Him. As a pastor I want this church to be a praising, worshiping body, but that has its ups and downs. We do better sometimes, but worse sometimes. I’ve got to remember that a major part of my job description as a pastor is “Chief Praise and Worshiper.” If I’m not focused on giving God the praise and worship He deserves, I can’t expect the congregation to be, either. At the same time, I don’t need to be lost in praise and worship to the point of being oblivious to whether the people around me are able to follow me into God’s throne room. The whole music team needs wisdom and sensitivity so that the “weaker” members of the congregation won’t be left behind, but rather be strengthened in all that God has for them. (Hebrews 12:12-13)
Father, thank You for the privilege of praise, and for this reminder just now. Thank You for the wisdom and anointing You give Cathy as she chooses music for the services, and for the generally high level of praise and worship that is evident here. May we continue to grow in all ways, so that all of Your purposes for us may be fulfilled for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!